Social Media, Surveillance and News Work: On the Apps Promising Journalists a 'Crystal Ball'

Thurman, N. (2017) Social Media, Surveillance, and News Work: On the Apps Promising Journalists a "Crystal Ball." Digital Journalism. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1345318.

23 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2017

See all articles by Neil Thurman

Neil Thurman

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich; City, University of London

Date Written: June 19, 2017

Abstract

Social media platforms are becoming an indispensable resource for journalists. Their use involves both direct interaction with the platforms themselves and, increasingly, the use of specialist third-party apps to find, filter, and follow content and contributors. This article explores some of the ways social media platforms, and their technological ecosystems, are infusing news work. A range of platforms and apps—including Geofeedia, Spike, and Twitter—were critically examined, and their use by trainee journalists (N=81) analysed. The results reveal how journalists can—and do—surveil social network users and their content via sophisticated, professional apps that are also utilised by the police and security forces. While journalists recognise the value of such apps in news work, they also have concerns, including about privacy and popularism. And although the participants in this study thought the apps they used could help with verification, there were warning signs that an over-reliance on the technology could develop, dulling journalists’ critical faculties.

Keywords: algorithms, artificial intelligence, computational journalism, geolocation, social media monitoring, surveillance, third-party apps, verification

Suggested Citation

Thurman, Neil J., Social Media, Surveillance and News Work: On the Apps Promising Journalists a 'Crystal Ball' (June 19, 2017). Thurman, N. (2017) Social Media, Surveillance, and News Work: On the Apps Promising Journalists a "Crystal Ball." Digital Journalism. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1345318.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2989429

Neil J. Thurman (Contact Author)

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich ( email )

Oettingenstr. 67
Munich, 80538
Germany

City, University of London ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB
United Kingdom

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